Poll: Which Media Streaming Device?

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Thread: Set-Top Media Streamers

  1. #1
    Part-Time Polemic Senior Member ICantSpellDawg's Avatar
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    Default Set-Top Media Streamers

    Which one do you recommend (only if you have one)? Looking between $50 and $150

    Youtube, existing netflix account, ease of navigation is a concern, roku doesn't have support for youtube. Painstaking, in-depth analysis of each sub-model welcomed.
    Last edited by ICantSpellDawg; 06-19-2013 at 04:36.
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    Nobody expects the Senior Member Lemur's Avatar
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    Default Re: Set-Top Media Streamers

    We are a cable-cutter family, and I've outfitted all of the TVs with WD boxes, which work very well. For a combination of streaming and local contant, you can't beat 'em. They're like VLC; they'll play most anything you throw at 'em. And they network nicely.

    The ability to play local and networked files is a big issue for me, as I work for a video company. Being able to slap a file on my home server and show the kids what daddy does for a living is nice.

    The Netflix and YouTube apps are fantastic, and work as advertised.

    Bug fixes and firmware updates are a regular thing, which is one of the advantages of going with an established company like WD.

    Downsides: No Amazon streaming, and the Hulu app is severely broken. I think I would get a Roku to supplement the WD if this ever becomes a big issue.

    Also, the WD TV Live has trouble with some of the more arcane Quicktime codecs that our video guys love to use, so sometimes I have to re-rip our videos in Handbrake. Not a huge deal, and unless you work for a video company, not an issue for you.

    Conclusion: If you intend a mix of local, networked, and streaming, the WD Live is the best solution. Roku is better if you have no local or networked media (it's a pure streaming device, and very good at what it does). Note that WD is selling a cheaper WD TV Play, but I would steer clear, since they yanked a bunch of format and codec support to bring the price down. The WD TV Live is the way to go.
    Last edited by Lemur; 06-19-2013 at 16:02.
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  3. #3
    Bureaucratically Efficient Senior Member TinCow's Avatar
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    Default Re: Set-Top Media Streamers

    It's not on your list, likely due to price, but I highly recommend the TiVo Premiere. I've had three TiVos over the years, a 2nd Gen SD, an HD and a Premiere and I could not recommend them more highly. They will stream any media you can imagine quickly and easily from any source, be it Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, Pandora, etc. It also interfaces with home networks very easily. They have their own software called TiVo Desktop that you can put on any computer that will let you stream media from that computer to the TiVo, but I use an opensource system called pyTiVo. That software makes a single folder on my computer accessible to the TiVo. All I have to do is dump any media I want in that folder and it shows up for streaming on my TiVo. You can schedule recordings on your TiVo on the TiVo website itself. You can also do it from any iOS device, and those devices can also double as remote controls, including full qwerty keyboards, which is useful for searching for media to stream. The TiVo UI is also the best in the business. It's incredibly intuitive and easy to use. If you've got some basic technical knowledge, you can also upgrade the devices very easily. I've always bought the lowest capacity versions and then upgraded the HDDs myself to save some cash. That voids the warranty, but as long as you buy the right HDD to go in them the things last forever anyway. Mine have been running constantly on for years without a single technical problem on any of them.

    The downside is the price. The basic boxes aren't bad, but they come with a subscription fee. I've bought all of mine with a lifetime subscription fee that pays for itself after about 2.5 years of service, but that makes the single outlay even more expensive. If you can deal with the price though, there's no better set top box out there.
    Last edited by TinCow; 06-19-2013 at 20:51.


  4. #4
    The very model of a modern Moderator Xiahou's Avatar
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    Default Re: Set-Top Media Streamers

    I have 2 Roku's at home and I think they're a fantastic value. The higher end ones use bluetooth remotes, which means the box itself doesn't even need to be visible to work. I have my living room Roku thrown behind the TV set....

    They don't have YouTube, but it doesn't really bother me- however, I could see how it'd be a deal breaker for some. I still think when it comes to ease of use and content, the Roku can't be beat.
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    Nobody expects the Senior Member Lemur's Avatar
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    Default Re: Set-Top Media Streamers

    Agree with @Xiahou, for online streaming the Roku really is the bomb-diggity. The only thing that steers me clear is their inability to stream local media. Hence the WD TV Live.
    "Those are my principles, and if you don't like them ... well, I have others." — Groucho Marx

  6. #6
    Part-Time Polemic Senior Member ICantSpellDawg's Avatar
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    Default Re: Set-Top Media Streamers

    And YouTube. I watch YouTube channels more often than TV. I'm all about decentralized info and entertainment.
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  7. #7
    Bureaucratically Efficient Senior Member TinCow's Avatar
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    Default Re: Set-Top Media Streamers

    TiVo streams YouTube directly. It also connects directly to Pandora, Rhapsody, Spotify, Photobucket, and Picasa and can play podcasts as well. They've done a pretty good job of integrating it with most of the popular web-based media services. That's one of the reasons I love the thing so much, it's a single box that does everything for you. It also takes cablecards so you don't even need an ugly cable box around.


  8. #8
    Part-Time Polemic Senior Member ICantSpellDawg's Avatar
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    Default Re: Set-Top Media Streamers

    But it costs a monthly fee, right?
    "That rifle hanging on the wall of the working-class flat or labourer's cottage is the symbol of democracy. It is our job to see that it stays there."
    -Eric "George Orwell" Blair

    "If the policy of the government, upon vital questions affecting the whole people, is to be irrevocably fixed by decisions of the Supreme Court...the people will have ceased to be their own rulers, having to that extent practically resigned the government into the hands of that eminent tribunal."
    (Lincoln's First Inaugural Address, 1861).
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  9. #9
    Nobody expects the Senior Member Lemur's Avatar
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    Default Re: Set-Top Media Streamers

    A monthly fee or a lump-sum lifetime subscription. Might be worth it if you still have cable, and your cable company plays nice with Tivo. Comcast changed to switched-IP transmission, and from then on I was never able to get my Tivo and the local cable to play nice. I warned both companies (who blamed each other) that I would fire them all if they couldn't work it out. They couldn't, I fired them, and I've never looked back.

    ICSD, it would be helpful to know which services you really want, what you imagine a media player doing, etc. Do you plan to keep cable? Is YouTube the big draw? Netflix? Hulu? Amazon Prime?

    No single box does it all (yet), so getting a sketch of your intended use would be incredibly helpful ...
    "Those are my principles, and if you don't like them ... well, I have others." — Groucho Marx

  10. #10
    Part-Time Polemic Senior Member ICantSpellDawg's Avatar
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    Default Re: Set-Top Media Streamers

    Quote Originally Posted by Lemur View Post
    A monthly fee or a lump-sum lifetime subscription. Might be worth it if you still have cable, and your cable company plays nice with Tivo. Comcast changed to switched-IP transmission, and from then on I was never able to get my Tivo and the local cable to play nice. I warned both companies (who blamed each other) that I would fire them all if they couldn't work it out. They couldn't, I fired them, and I've never looked back.

    ICSD, it would be helpful to know which services you really want, what you imagine a media player doing, etc. Do you plan to keep cable? Is YouTube the big draw? Netflix? Hulu? Amazon Prime?

    No single box does it all (yet), so getting a sketch of your intended use would be incredibly helpful ...
    I use Netflix and YouTube channels most. I also use HBO go and Hulu plus. I never play stored files anymore. I would like an intuitive experience at first I was thinking big, now I want easy. Roku 3 would be ideal if it had YouTube

    I just went to Google TV and all of the listed devices (pulse, cube, co-star, are brutally reviewed. I can't even consider any. It looks like it might be the WD Live, a cheap Roku LT, or just cave and get the Roku3 until they figure out how to integrate youtube, but I'm not quite convinced.
    Last edited by ICantSpellDawg; 06-21-2013 at 02:31.
    "That rifle hanging on the wall of the working-class flat or labourer's cottage is the symbol of democracy. It is our job to see that it stays there."
    -Eric "George Orwell" Blair

    "If the policy of the government, upon vital questions affecting the whole people, is to be irrevocably fixed by decisions of the Supreme Court...the people will have ceased to be their own rulers, having to that extent practically resigned the government into the hands of that eminent tribunal."
    (Lincoln's First Inaugural Address, 1861).
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  11. #11
    Nobody expects the Senior Member Lemur's Avatar
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    Default Re: Set-Top Media Streamers

    If you never stream local files, then the Roku is most likely the way to go. (The can-opener quality of the WD boxes with local files are their unique selling point.)

    There's a fairly simple hack that allows you to play YouTube: details here.

    Unfortunately there is no device that plays Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, local files, and Amazon Plus. Closest thing might be the Xbox 360, which can handle all of those streaming services, but falls flat on its face with local files. And there's a yearly subscription fee with the Xbox. So ... the perfect box does not exist.

    But if you're all about streaming, the Roku 3 seems like your beast. It's been getting consistently fantastic reviews, and YouTube integration is hackable.
    Last edited by Lemur; 06-21-2013 at 02:35.
    "Those are my principles, and if you don't like them ... well, I have others." — Groucho Marx

  12. #12
    Part-Time Polemic Senior Member ICantSpellDawg's Avatar
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    Default Re: Set-Top Media Streamers

    Quote Originally Posted by Lemur View Post
    If you never stream local files, then the Roku is most likely the way to go. (The can-opener quality of the WD boxes with local files are their unique selling point.)

    There's a fairly simple hack that allows you to play YouTube: details here.
    Does apple tv have access to YouTube, Netflix, HBO go, Hulu Plus? Its also only $99

    The hack involves beaming individual videos from your mobile device.... That's not a practical hack for somebody who constantly watches youtube
    Last edited by ICantSpellDawg; 06-21-2013 at 02:43.
    "That rifle hanging on the wall of the working-class flat or labourer's cottage is the symbol of democracy. It is our job to see that it stays there."
    -Eric "George Orwell" Blair

    "If the policy of the government, upon vital questions affecting the whole people, is to be irrevocably fixed by decisions of the Supreme Court...the people will have ceased to be their own rulers, having to that extent practically resigned the government into the hands of that eminent tribunal."
    (Lincoln's First Inaugural Address, 1861).
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  13. #13
    Nobody expects the Senior Member Lemur's Avatar
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    Default Re: Set-Top Media Streamers

    Apple TV does not do HBO go or Amazon Prime.

    There is no perfect cord-cutter's box.

    Your original plan, to go with a WD TV Live and the $50 Roku, is as close to an Everything Solution as you're gonna get.
    "Those are my principles, and if you don't like them ... well, I have others." — Groucho Marx

  14. #14
    The very model of a modern Moderator Xiahou's Avatar
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    Default Re: Set-Top Media Streamers

    Quote Originally Posted by ICantSpellDawg View Post
    And YouTube. I watch YouTube channels more often than TV. I'm all about decentralized info and entertainment.
    I don't have cable TV anymore. I can't justify the expense for the value I get from it.

    For Youtube and other Internet sources that you can't stream over the Roku, I just have a PC in my entertainment center. Maybe not an option for everyone, but it works great for us.
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  15. #15
    Part-Time Polemic Senior Member ICantSpellDawg's Avatar
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    Default Re: Set-Top Media Streamers

    I've already got a chrome book hooked up to the main TV and laptop hooked up in the bedroom. I just wanted something with a remote and ease of use, but honestly I'm probably just going to hold off since they haven't figured out how to do it yet. Boggles the mind when tech is out there but companies haven't made it work yet. Thanks for the suggestions, I would have just bought one and been pissed off and had my wife yell at me for spending more money for minimal benefit.

    Does anybody k now if there is a chrome program that makes it a streamer? I could just buy a handheld mini wireless keyboard and mouse. Any suggestion on those?
    Last edited by ICantSpellDawg; 06-21-2013 at 08:50.
    "That rifle hanging on the wall of the working-class flat or labourer's cottage is the symbol of democracy. It is our job to see that it stays there."
    -Eric "George Orwell" Blair

    "If the policy of the government, upon vital questions affecting the whole people, is to be irrevocably fixed by decisions of the Supreme Court...the people will have ceased to be their own rulers, having to that extent practically resigned the government into the hands of that eminent tribunal."
    (Lincoln's First Inaugural Address, 1861).
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  16. #16
    Bureaucratically Efficient Senior Member TinCow's Avatar
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    Default Re: Set-Top Media Streamers

    Quote Originally Posted by ICantSpellDawg View Post
    But it costs a monthly fee, right?
    Yeah, cost is the downside. If you're keeping cable I think the fee isn't that bad. It only needs cablecards which means you save money on the set top boxes that the cable company would want to rent to you. When you compare its monthly costs with cable-company DVRs, its really not that expensive. If you're not keeping cable I wouldn't recommend it though; despite the awesomeness of its features, it's just too expensive for cable-cutting.

    Quote Originally Posted by Lemur View Post
    Unfortunately there is no device that plays Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, local files, and Amazon Plus.
    TiVo!

    [edit] While I have no experience with it, I have a friend who has a Roku and loves it. If that device does most of what you want, it's probably a decent purchase.
    Last edited by TinCow; 06-21-2013 at 13:53.


  17. #17
    Clan Takiyama Senior Member CBR's Avatar
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    Default Re: Set-Top Media Streamers

    Quote Originally Posted by Lemur View Post
    Apple TV does not do HBO go or Amazon Prime.
    HBO is coming is available now: http://www.apple.com/pr/library/2013...-Apple-TV.html
    Last edited by CBR; 06-22-2013 at 16:19.

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  18. #18
    The very model of a modern Moderator Xiahou's Avatar
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    Default Re: Set-Top Media Streamers

    This intrigues me. Frankly, it looks amazing. The only downside is that I think you'd need to come up with your own wireless keyboard/mouse.
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  19. #19
    Nobody expects the Senior Member Lemur's Avatar
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    Default Re: Set-Top Media Streamers

    Relevant, perhaps. Chromecast.
    "Those are my principles, and if you don't like them ... well, I have others." — Groucho Marx

  20. #20
    The very model of a modern Moderator Xiahou's Avatar
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    Default Re: Set-Top Media Streamers

    Quote Originally Posted by ICantSpellDawg View Post
    I could just buy a handheld mini wireless keyboard and mouse. Any suggestion on those?
    I use one of these:
    Click image for larger version. 

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lemur View Post
    Relevant, perhaps. Chromecast.
    I'd have to see the video quality on non-compatible apps before I got too excited. In those cases, it relies on your laptop or whatever to encode the stream for the chromecast device. The article says quality takes a big hit then.... If so, you'd be better off leaving your computer directly connected to the TV and controlling it with a BT keyboard-type thing.

    For the price though, it's definitely worth keeping an eye on.
    "Don't believe everything you read online."
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  21. #21
    Nobody expects the Senior Member Lemur's Avatar
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    Default Re: Set-Top Media Streamers

    Anybody got a link to some sort of master chart of which boxen support which major services?

    The really relevant stuff:

    Netflix
    YouTube
    Amazon Plus or Prime or whatever they call it
    Hulu
    HBO Go

    ... and maybe some of the major sports internet services?

    I'd be interested to see what supports what ...
    "Those are my principles, and if you don't like them ... well, I have others." — Groucho Marx

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